03.15.21 Dr. Paul McNeill Swelling

Traveling with Vein Disease

Venous disease – whether you’ve had treatment or not – poses risks for travelers to develop leg swelling, leg pain and blood clots. The sedentary nature of getting to your destination is the problem. Calf muscle contraction with walking helps move blood and fluid back to your heart. Sitting still for a long time without moving your legs allows blood and fluid to pool, which can lead to these problems.

To counteract the pooling of blood and fluid in your legs with any travel over two hours, wear support hose and rock the ball of your foot up, then move your heels up and down to activate your calf muscles. Getting out of the seat on a plane or stopping every few hours to walk is helpful too. Additionally, taking one baby aspirin per day during travel may be beneficial to prevent blood clots, at least in theory. Having your preferred anti-inflammatory/ pain reliever medication (ibuprofen or naproxen sodium or acetaminophen) with you on your travel will save you a visit to the local pharmacy. *Always check with your primary care physician first before adding any new medications to your regimen.

If you find your legs are swollen once you arrive at your destination, you should elevate them and continue to wear your support hose. New pain in the legs can mean inflammation of superficial veins – phlebitis, or even a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). If pain is severe, it may be necessary to seek medical care, including an ultrasound of the legs to exclude DVT. Once this diagnosis is considered, getting care expeditiously is worthwhile because you may need blood thinners. Go to an emergency room or urgent care center for evaluation if you suspect a blood clot. Likewise, the development of chest pain or shortness of breath with travel could indicate the possibility of a blood clot in the lungs – a pulmonary embolism. Seek immediate care by calling 911 in this case. If your pain is less severe but you are still concerned, look for a vein center nearby that can see you on short notice. Contacting your vascular and vein specialist back home can provide you needed guidance and possibly facilitate an appointment for you locally.

You can find more helpful information regarding travel and blood clots at: Blood Clots During Travel | Travelers’ Health | CDC

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